It’s more than just patriotic fervor that has the fans here in Mexico on the edge of their seats and jumping for joy when the home side takes the pitch. Raul Gutierrez’s young El Tri have put on a show across three venues, with their stylish and cohesive brand of football producing 12 goals in five games.
One of Mexico’s finest purveyors of the attacking arts here at the FIFA U-17 finals is Marco Bueno, who forms one-half of the team’s lethal strike-force alongside poacher supreme Carlos ‘Charley’ Fierro of Chivas. The pair boasts an understanding that borders on the telepathic, allowing them to slip into almost imperceptible seams in otherwise watertight defences.
We have to fight; we have to win every ball and not give them a sniff of anything. We have to give everything inside of us to win this game. We will do it. We will give our hearts and souls.
“We’ve played together since we were very young,” Bueno told FIFA.com after their quarter-final win against France, his face lighting up when asked about his friend and strike partner. Both hail from the Northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, Bueno from Culiacan and Fierro from Los Mochis, and have been playing together since they were just wee lads. “When you play with someone for a long time you can predict what they are going to do and you can be a few steps ahead of the defenders. There is a strong understanding between the two of us on the field and off.”
The pair are responsible for five of free-scoring Mexico’s goals at these junior finals and although neither one is imposing physically, they have a grit and determination about them in keeping with their respective Sinaloan hometowns, both Mexican boxing hot-beds. “We are really motivated right now, as you would expect,” added Bueno, who has scored only one goal to Fierro’s four. What he lacks on the scoresheet, however, he more than makes up for by disrupting defences and creating spaces with his vision and smart movement. “We have all the spirit and power we need to take into the semi-final.”
Mexico’s last outing, against France in Pachuca, saw Bueno playing on his home patch. He is a part of the youth set-up at Hidalgo giants Club Pachuca and a thrilling prospect for the future. The forward beams when talking about what it feels like to pull on the famous green jersey and represent his country on home soil. “There is such a pride in playing in front of these great fans,” he said. “We have a responsibility to them to give everything we have out on the pitch. They give us so much and all that we can do is play our hearts out.”
It will take more than just whole-hearted effort and endeavour to get the better of rampant Germany in the semi-final in steamy Torreon on Thursday, but Bueno – always smiling and always eager – harbours no fears of the young Nationalmannschaft, who have scored a tournament-best 18 goals in their five games so far. “We can’t respect Germany too much,” he said. “We have to fight; we have to win every ball and not give them a sniff of anything. We have to give everything inside of us to win this game. We will do it. We will give our hearts and souls.”
While this Mexican team aims to match the heroics of the so-called ‘golden generation’ of Gio dos Santos and Carlos Vela, who raised the U-17 World Cup trophy in Peru in 2005, Bueno is quick to banish any premature talk of reaching the final at the fabled Estadio Azteca on 10 July. “We are one step from the final, but it is a big step,” he said, suddenly serious. “We must focus on Germany.”